[Scheduled] *ooof*: Middle of the Road

Are you enjoying the scheduled series of *ooof*s? As you know, I have been writing these in advance, for the three weeks preceding my EDD (estimated date of departure). This particular one I am writing on day -5 EDD, and I can already say one thing – this has not been a chore but a joy. Looking intensely at imagery is something I do every day, but I hadn’t done this in terms of writing about it, and I find that my increased *ooof*ing activity has really tuned me back into my upcoming photography gig on my trip. In short, I am gagging for “it”, for spotting the click-worthy, for framing the shot and for releasing the shutter. As ever, RA is proving to be a “trigger”, a motive (and a motif) to think about what I like doing best. I will miss it and *him* while I am travelling, but who knows, maybe I will be able to keep up with the happenings in the fandom while I am gone.

Four weeks in – and more than half way through my absence – I am trying very hard to have a bit of variety in these scheduled posts. Most recently, all new imagery seemed to come from the lens of Sarah Dunn. I have avoided her so far in my “scheduled series”, but now it is time to look at another one of her images. For this week’s *ooof* let’s put a coat on RA – and hide the skin. *awwww*

Streetwalker Armitage. Image by Sarah Dunn, 2014

Streetwalker Armitage. Image by Sarah Dunn, 2014

A man in a street. A large building at a t-junction in the far background that looks like a church, tall houses either side of the street. There is a row of parked cars visible on the right and an empty pavement with a couple of street lights on the right. In the centre of the image the subject has turned half towards the camera. RA (bearded version) has buried his hands in his bulky military style coat and stares out of the picture with a hard-to-define expression on his face. Maybe it is obscured by the beard, but I find it difficult to read whether this is a smile or a mid-sentence neutral look.

The composition of the image is pleasing: the symmetry of the houses on either side of the street is well-judged. The vertical lines of the end-of-terrace on the left and the street light on the right, together with the horizontal ledge of the church at the end of the street create a frame around the subject. The angles of the diagonal lines of the parked cars on the left and the double-yellow + curbstone on the right balance each other well because the sitter has been placed in the middle. Moreover, for once the cropping leaves enough space around the sitter and cuts at a place where it feels natural. His head is right on the middle of the upper third line, which appeals to our built-in aesthetic.

By using the architecture of the environment in her shot, Dunn creates a nice feeling of depth and three-dimensionality in the image. The subject is the focus point in the middle, but the strong converging lines of the composition lead our gaze from before him to behind him. The use of a large aperture in the shot adds to that, by only keeping the subject in focus while allowing all other parts of the image to fall off and appear blurry. This further emphasizes the “deep”, three-dimensional feel of the image.

Interestingly, the image is shot against sunlight, in the middle of the day – which you can tell by the evidence of light and the angle of the shadow on Armitage’s left shoulder. An interesting choice as the strong mid-day sun is something that photographers avoid, just as much as they do shooting against a light source, which invariably will place the subject’s face in shadow. This is not the case here, though, and may have been remedied by exposing the image for the sitter’s face and possibly using a fill flash. Yet, despite the sunlight in the image, to me this picture does not look particularly sunny at all. In fact, to me it looks as if it was shot on a rather grey and slightly dull day. Maybe the whole image could’ve done with more contrast, although I understand that that would’ve been tricky as there are so many different tones in the scene already.

Niggles aside, what I like about the image is the unpretentiousness of it. That applies both to the sitter as well as the photographer. I like the way Dunn just places her subject in a street, no props, no shenanigans, and (simply) releases the shutter. She takes care with the composition, but she works with an ordinary setting. Likewise, Armitage comes across as quite unpretentious in it – as if he has just been ambling down the street, hands buried in his coat, turning around as someone is calling his name. It could almost be a snapshot, not a carefully composed portrait, and as such it exudes a sense of immediacy and truthfulness .

Mr A obviously presumably liked this image very much, after all he illustrated his 2014 Christmas message with it. A seal of approval? Regular readers know that Dunn is not *my* favourite photogRApher. That highly dubitable honour still goes to Robert Ascroft, with Blair Getz Mezibov and Justin Canning in hot pursuit. If you look at my favourite photographers, you might realize what it is that Guylty obviously goes for. Can you guess? What do those three photographers have in common? They are all predominantly or at least contain *some* colour photography. They produced a long(ish) series of shots, sometimes with a number of variations of one particular set-up/fashion style available. They all shoot pretty sleek, crisp, clear and glossy photographs. Their pictures are shot on location. They are all men. Ok, disregarding the last, Dunn has easily done the same. She has produced series of shots, including colour images, taken on location. But there are a couple of things where she doesn’t hit *my* target – they are not glossy and crisp in the way Ascroft’s or even McCormack’s are, and they do not quite touch me. Despite the occasionally glamourous clothes, the obviously styled locations and the variation of styles, her imagery remains strangely remote to me.

This is not a quantifiable, objective caveat, but I simply do not “feel” her images. It is as if there is a fine mist between me and her sitter, a cloud, slightly obscuring her lens and distancing me from the subject. She doesn’t produce this crisp, tension-crackling clarity that Ascroft or Canning have, where you can see every single detail in sharp focus, down to the last hair. Even when she shoots at a smaller aperture (i.e. with a large depth of field) such as the Hobbit cast promo images that brought us RA on the bed, staring through a window and posing outside in front of it, she seems to filter the crisp clear-ness away by colour-draining the images and/or exposing a stop or two higher. Those are *her* artistic decisions, it is *her* aesthetic, and therefore her imagery is perfectly valid. But apart from a couple of images, *I* never feel the urge to reach out and touch the sitter through her screen.

I totally concede that this is a matter of personal preference. Because by all accounts, Dunn’s images are favourites with the fandom. Some of that, I suspect, may be due to two factors. There is 1) a (false?) sense of approachability to Dunn due to her activities on Twitter and early communication (sort of) with the fandom, and 2) her status as “appointed court photographer by His Royal Hotness himself”, ennobled by RA’s enthusiastic endorsement as “favourite photographer” . As such there is a sense of obligation, almost, to “like” the work of the photographer who is favourited favoured by the subject, maybe more as a concession to RA than in order to find myself sharing an opinion with my favourite actor. And Mr A liked this image, otherwise he wouldn’t have used it for illustrating his tweet. As such it is an interesting insight into *his* artistic/photographic/aesthetic sensibilities and preferences. Mind you – he can’t be pinned down on that as his Twitter profile is illustrated with a glossy, crisp Ascroft. A man of extremes? Well, the two combined, it is middle of the road – even if he will *never* be middle of the road for me…

 

 

Advertisements

31 thoughts on “[Scheduled] *ooof*: Middle of the Road

  1. Funny, I also am not a huge fan of Sarah Dunn’s photography. I suppose I too prefer clear crisp images…and my favourite photographer is far and away Robert Ashcroft! And Richard must also like Ashcroft’s images too because it’s Ashcroft’s pic that he has selected for both his twitter & weibo avatar! I think Sarah (unfortunately, in my humble opinion) has been lucky enough to be the designated “Hobbit” PR photographer, so the vast majority of recent pics circulated of Richard have been her work. I also think that he has become friends with her (as a direct result of Sarah being the designated Hobbit photographer and thus having the opportunity to spend time together over numerous shoots these past three years!) and Richard tends to support (i.e. ‘promote’) his friends. As an amateur photographer, I’m pleased to know that a professional photographer is likewise (relatively?!?) unimpressed by Sarah Dunn’s photography. Hear, hear to the photographic skills of Robert Ashcroft! He so deftly captures the other RA so impeccably!

    Like

    • Great to hear that you agree with me on Ascroft, RAfan :-). As for RA and Dunn – I think they knew each other way before the Hobbit. Dunn took some actor’s portraits of RA way back in 2002! So they probably go way back, and I am tempted to think that they are genuinely friends, not just because of the Hobbit. (I took a short little look at the pics (among others) in a post for RA’s birthday in 2013 https://guylty.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/ooof-happy-birthday-mr-armitage/) Nonetheless it is extremely nice of RA to support his friends so generously, and Dunn can count herself lucky – not just because he is a man on the rise (presumably) but also because he is such a loyal soul…

      Like

      • Oh, I definitely do believe that they are genuine friends! For instance, even though she seems to split her studio time between NYC & London, she visited him on set in LA during the last day of Sleepwalker – snapping that (I thought horribly unflattering) shot of him enjoying the ice cream that Ahna O’Rielly treated cast & crew to on their last day! And there was another occasion when he tweeted thanking her for visiting him (keeping him company?)…I think during whirlwind Hobbit press tour this past Dec. Yes, Dunn is a very lucky person to be able to count RA as a friend. He’s such a dear man,… kind, considerate, polite & very very giving (I could go on, but who wants to read a tome!)… What I would give to be part of that exclusive group… (sigh)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Whatever her shortcomings as a photographer, the attractions of the subject seem to make up for them. What a great expression he has in this photo. The feeling I get from it is the delightful one of receiving an appreciative look from a handsome man on a city street 🙂

    Like

    • Can you imagine that? If RA turned and looked at you like that on some city street? May need to call an ambulance. =)

      Great job, Guylty! Love this image. Probably more to do with the subject than the photographer, but I don’t think there are many images of Armitage that don’t make me want to reach out and touch. Lol

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hm, no, there are several images where I *don’t* want to reach out and touch *ggg*, especially those with the big beard… Just not my thing. But, you know, it’s all personal preference 😀 Mind you, I think I would (grudgingly) accept the beard if I had to 😉

        Like

    • I am unfortunately not familiar with appreciative looks of men on the street, but I like that scenario. I hadn’t even realized that I had forgotten to write an *ooof*let for this picture…

      Like

      • Das mit den appreciative looks kommt mir mehr als bekannt vor. Unsereiner muß immer erst performen, bevor das jemand merkt. Andererseits, wenn einem dauernd die Kerle aus den Stand zu Füssen liegen würden, käme man ja auch keinen sprichwörtlichen Schritt weiter 😉 (Aber mal so ab und zu wäre es schon ganz nett……)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. was für ein fleißiges Bienchen Du nicht warst – alles gut vorbereitet!
    Mein Jüngster musste für eine mündliche Englischprüfung gerade “Bildbeschreibungen” lernen, vielleicht hätte ich einen Deiner ooofs als Übungs-Vorlage nehmen sollen, sie sind deutlich “intensiver” als alles was er so bearbeitet hat 😉
    Vielleicht habe ich es überlesen, aber so einen überdimensionierten Mantel habe ich auch noch im Keller, aus den 90ern (?), das Ding war so sauteuer, dass ich es nie weggeben konnte, breite Schultern, riesige Krägen und man könnte locker 30 kilo zunehmen und passt immer noch rein…und natürlich sehr bequem 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • 😀 Viel schreiben ist nicht immer gut, erst recht nicht, wenn es um Englisch geht. Die lieben ja eher das kurze, knappe, konzise Schreiben. Also denke ich mal, dass dein Jüngster immer noch gut fährt.
      Was den dicken Bollermantel angeht – naja, sieh es mal so: Je größer so ein Teil, desto mehr Platz für eine zweite Person an der breiten Brust 😀 Vielleicht hätte ich das als *ooof*let schreiben sollen?

      Like

      • Du hast natürlich recht! Diese Mäntel sind nur dafür gemacht worden, dass man den/die Liebste/n noch mit reinnehmen konnte zum kuscheln und gemeinsamen wärmen ❤
        Wie unpraktisch die heutigen schmal geschnittenen Mäntel dagegen sind, nichts zum schmusen, drücken, kuscheln….
        ich sollte das Ding definitiv noch ein paar Jahre aufheben 😉

        Like

  4. Das Subject in der “bearded version” -und zwar deluxe!- 😀 Kann man es schöner ausdrücken?
    Ja, ich muß Suzy Recht geben, in puncto Bildbeschreibung können wir noch was von dir lernen 😉
    Ich habe auch langsam deinen Textaufbau drauf. Wenn ich auch mit dem ganzenThemenkomplex bzgl. Belichtung, Dioptrin (oder so) und dem übrigen Fotofachgeschwurbel ein wenig fremdele…..
    Also, zurück zum Subjekt: der Mantel ist echt ein Knaller. Den kann man nur tragen, wenn man die 1,80 deutlich gerissen hat. Kleinere Männer werden von solchen Kleidungsstücken “gefressen”. Und für diesen fetten Kragen ist es auch ganz gut, daß wir hier die mit ohne Nackenlöckchen-Version haben. Dann steht da hinten (im Nackenbereich) nichts unkontrolliert ab. 😀 Überraupt haben diese Kragen ja den immensen Vorteil, daß man sich damit das OdB richtig schön ranziehen kann………also, wenn sich die Gelegenheit böte… also nur so hypothenusisch… oder so……

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with you JHOLLAND, just imagining to have an encounter with such a man somewhere in a city. I think ambulance is not needed. Just dying a few seconds later !!! His way to look at the camera just reminds me of De Niro in “Taxi Driver” : “Are you talking to me ?” !!!

    Like

    • I thought the same thing, Katia. Someone just yelled at him and he turned around with the “Are you talking to me?” face. I think his expression looks slightly aggravated, and I would not have the nerve to admit I was the one who called to him. “Who me? Why no, I didn’t say a word.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • What a way to commit suicide, just imagine?! I am beginning to have a death wish… Ok, no, I shouldn’t joke about that. But yeah, I bet it would be nice to know that Mr A is looking and concentrating.

      Like

  6. All I can think about is The Pretender’s Chrissie Hynde singing “The Middle of the Road” and admittedly, once I get a song stuck in my head, I can’t get it out. I blame you, Guylty, for making me “Jones” (yeah I punned it Kathy) for it. If we hadn’t pulled an all-nighter at work getting to bed around 10:30a this morning, I’d have it on the stereo turned up to 11 right now! heh heh

    Just for fun, here is a couple of youtube links:

    Damn that woman kicks ass on harmonica.

    Like

  7. I like this but mostly because of the photography itself and not particularly as an image if him Iike street photography in black and white and seemingly everyday fashion photography in urban settings in b and w as well so i like this. In terms of him i find like in almost all hers they manage to depict and transmit him as a total stranger. It says nothing at all about the person. Don’t know if because of lack of definition and contrast, could be but there is as very frequent i find in her images a lack of clear expression almost less energy than in his natural state. It manages to be a good photography but still somehow bland? Weird.

    Like

Let me know what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s